I will never forget the thought that ran through my head when a 40-something-year-old blind fisherman walked up and started fishing next to me on a North Carolina pier. Through talking to the guy, I learned that he had once been a Volkswagen mechanic but lost his sight and his job due to diabetes. He wasn’t just partially blind; he was totally blind and thought nothing of unhooking a flopping fish from his line. I was absolutely terrified that he might snag himself on one of the hooks or get poked by a dorsal fin, but he never did, and he matched me fish for fish. After all, fishing is a game of “feel” and not a game of “sight.”
Little did I know that 17 years later I too would experience my own brush with blindness. I hadn’t been diagnosed as a diabetic yet, but I knew that something was wrong. Usually able to see while driving at night, I found myself struggling to read street signs because they suddenly became blurry for no reason. It then became impossible for me to read the date on a penny or dime, and soon I was holding papers at arm’s length to read them.
Since I was 39 years old, those around me chalked it up as “getting old.” My vision was so blurred at one point that I can remember driving on Interstate 20 with my wife, daughter, and 5-month-old son and seeing nothing but a sea of blurred red lights ahead of me. They were taillights but to which cars they belonged to; I couldn’t tell you.
It wasn’t until I went to the doctor a few days later did I realize that I was a diabetic and my screwed up vision was due to high levels of glucose in my eyes. Not a good thing.
My number one priority became reducing my blood sugar and saving my eyes. I was prescribed glasses, and while they did help me see better, they did nothing to address my true problem.
Only after taking heavy doses of gut-punishing Metformin, drinking lots of water, and getting on a proper diet did things begin to come back into focus.
Looking back, I wonder if the blind fisherman experienced these very same signs before losing his sight. The biggest lesson learned was not to listen to a self-diagnoses or urban folklore from friends and family. Never mind that they started having eyes problems or needed glasses at a certain age. Having similar symptoms does not mean you have the same medical condition.
There’s no magical age for diabetes to show its nasty signs, and you’re only doing long term damage to yourself by waiting to seek help. You only have one set of eyes, so protect them.